NI lockdown easing needs to ‘move up a gear’, says DUP MP Carla Lockhart

Northern Ireland’s path out of lockdown should “move up a gear” when the Executive meets on Thursday, a DUP MP has said.

Monday, 12th April 2021, 4:10 pm
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th April 2021 . Shoppers at Hillmount Garden Centre on the first full day of opening since Christmas Eve. Customers can now walk into and shop at the the Castlereigh Hills nursery along with other garden centres around the country. Margot Bucaille with her 10-month-old son Gawan at Hillmount Garden Centre. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Carla Lockhart said people need to see the success of the coronavirus vaccination programme “reflected in the easing of the restrictions”.

She was speaking after minor steps out of lockdown were taken on Monday, with the reopening of garden centres and other forms of outdoor retail such as vehicle sales and car washes.

Click-and-collect is also permitted for retailers deemed ‘non-essential’ by the government, while the stay-at-home order has been rescinded and replaced with a ‘stay local’ message from Stormont.

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Meanwhile, more significant steps have been taken in England and in other parts of the UK with beer gardens, outdoor dining and professional haircuts now allowed.

The Upper Bann MP said: “We have some minor steps forward that are welcome insofar as they go. However, all eyes are very much fixed on the Executive meeting later this week and the onus will be on the local parties to move up a gear and take us further on the journey out of lockdown.”

She added: “With over one million vaccines now administered in Northern Ireland, we need to see that success reflected in the easing of the restrictions placed on the lives of the public. I truly hope this can happen on Thursday.”

Her party leader, First Minister Arlene Foster, also reiterated her hope that dates can be provided following Thursday’s Executive meeting.

“I very much hope that we can give an indicative timeframe on Thursday because I think there are lots of people for business reasons, for wellbeing reasons, they want to see that timetable and I hope that we can do that on Thursday,” she told BBC Radio Ulster.

The Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill, said the progress in tackling Covid-19 has created enough headroom to allow for further lockdown relaxations.

Ms O’Neill, also speaking to BBC Radio Ulster, said: “I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the Executive decisions on Thursday, but I think it’s fair to say that we’re increasingly confident in our ability to be able to make more progress.”

She added: “So I’m hopeful that by Thursday we’ll be able to announce dates for other things being able to open up.”